Nikki and Rob’s visit to Galapagos

This was a historical visit: Our first Australian friends to visit and on top of that they were on their honeymoon. Rob is Mick’s good friend. Rob was there when Mick and I first met in Hawaii and now he had married lovely Nikki and they were coming to spend two weeks of their honeymoon with us. We were stoked!

The first few days we spent them in San Cristobal. There were still some waves so as soon as they arrived we went surfing to Carola. Even Nikki decided to come on the mad dog (which is an inflatable mat) with her goggles on to see the wildlife. It was pretty small, but being an island, there is always a chance for a surprise big set and just in time I looked up and saw this big thing coming and screamed to Nikki “I think you should paddle that way” as I pointed to the horizon and luckily she did, and the poor thing didn’t stop paddling until she got back to the boat. That was the first and last time Nikki decided to venture into the Galapagos waves.

The next morning we decided to take the long walk to Tongo Reef and we caught a few fun waves there but chose the worse time of the day to start our walk back and by the time we got on Ondular we all had to take naps..the Galapagos sun is quite strong!

The third day, Rob and Nikki did the tour to see the giant tortoises and Mick and I stayed on the boat and had our Swiss friend Dani, who had arrived on the islands a few days before, visit us in the morning. By the time Nikki and Rob were back, we decided it was time to open the champagne we had bought for the newlyweds and a spontaneous party began, having our next boat neighbour Phil, from Alaska, coming too. It was a fun night and kind of like a farewell party as the next day we were sailing to Isabela.

It’s 80 miles to Isabela so we left at around 1pm and took us almost 24 hours to get there. It was a pleasant passage and Nikki and Rob were keen to do their first night watch on Ondular. I was really impressed by seeing how calm Nikki seemed with the whole sailing thing and it made me a bit embarrassed to think a few months back and remembered how scared I’ve always been and compare it with how calm and collected she was.

In the morning we were all in the lookout for some wildlife. We started seeing this white water and splashes in the distance. We all checked and agreed that it seemed like it was a big pod of whales. We were all excited, got the revs up and change our course a bit to go after the whales, hooting and screaming in excitement. The closer we got, the further they seemed. Our excitement started diminishing but we were still hopeful, until we realized it was all an optical illusion and it was white water breaking over a shallow offshore reef. Oh well, we could only try.

We arrived into Isabela around noon and while they went snorkelling to some lava rocks nearby, I stayed on the boat and did some yoga. The next few days we went on two different tours, one to Los Tuneles which was a snorkelling tour and the next day with a taxi up to the high part of the island for a hiking tour to the volcano Sierra Negra.

I think everyone agreed that the Tuneles tour was our favourite one. We left early morning on a power boat and they took us to this bay 30 minutes from Puerto Villamil where we snorkelled through some caves and saw sleeping white tip sharks, big pleasant turtles and all kinds of colourful fish. The hike to the volcano was a bit harder, starting at 8:30 and finishing almost at 1pm. The views were spectacular but it was a bit too hot to enjoy it.

 Isabela is an amazing island full of beauty. Other things we did while there was see the flamingos, walk to the tortoises breeding centre and snorkel around the boat to check out the cutest little penguins. After three days there we decided to keep moving and our next stop was Santa Cruz only 40 miles away so we left at sunset to get there by first light not without our share of excitement on our night passage.

Mick and I were downstairs washing the dishes and Nikki and Rob were upstairs doing their watch. I came up to check on them and suddenly saw a shade of something, it seemed like a rock but it couldn’t be one as it was moving too fast. We kept calling Mick to come and have a look but by the time he got to the cockpit the shade had passed us and until this day “the captain” still doesn’t believe us when we say that it must have been a ghost ship or something passing us by. I do think that situation scared the hell out of Nikki as she confessed having nightmares that night about the ghost ship.

Santa Cruz is the busiest of all islands in the Galapagos and it has a wide variety of shops, restaurants, bars and businesses. The same day that we got there, my cousin Juan that lives in Denmark arrived too and we hung up with him the next few days. Dani our swiss friend was also there and we had them over on our boat to celebrate Dani’s birthday. We were all pretty tired from the night crossing so Dani left with my cousin a bit disappointed by our lack of enthusiasm but luckily the nightclubs were opened so he still got to enjoy the rest of the night.

The next day we did the walk to Tortuga Bay a long white beach where you can see the marine iguanas in full swimming action and we spent the morning there and my cousin came along. At night we caught up with Dani again and had pizza in town. The last day in Santa Cruz, Rob and Nikki did a tour to see the giant tortoises in the wild and Mick and I went to the market to buy some fresh fruit and veggies. We left around sunset and this time my cousin Juan joined us for his first overnight passage which was uneventful but we did have to motor almost all the way due to a strong current against us and not much wind.

In the morning we said good bye to my cousin who was going back to mainland Ecuador to spend some time with his parents and we went for a walk to Tijeretas where we were hoping to swim with sea lions. We got in the water and it was so clear with plenty of fish but not many sea lions around. It was still a nice snorkel but by the time we were out of the water drying ourselves up we saw an incoming sea lion family. We all decided to jump back in and it was so much fun being in the water with them, all coming very close to our faces and playing with us. They are definitely some amazing animals and it seems like their lives are mainly about having fun and being comfortably lazy. The pups are the cutest but the big male ones can be quite aggressive and not cute at all.

On Nikki and Rob’s last day on the boat, we had a big angry male sea lion coming aboard and making it all the way into our cockpit. He was so agro that we couldn’t do anything when he growled himself into laying on one of our cockpit cushions and just stay there defiantly. We tried everything to get him out but he didn’t seem to mind when we gently poked him with a stick or clapped our hands or did anything, he just laid there and stared at us. Mick and I had to go to town to make a skype call and left Rob and Nikki there with the big guest. They finally got him off by using a saucepan and a spoon and making loud noise with it. We were glad when we came back and found the boat back to normal.

Nikki and Rob were with us for two weeks and we wished they had stayed longer. We had some great times together, lots of laughter and good conversations. They both did amazingly well at complying with all boat regulations and seamanship but if we had to pick the best one I think Rob has to come second best due to his confusion when trying to remove the water from the shower by pumping the toilet and we never understood why he needed those long meditative moments in the morning hanging from the anchor chain.


Author: Isabel Romero

founder of Mingas por el Mar

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